Donald Trump reported nearly $1 billion in operating losses over a two-year period about a decade ago, an accountant testified at the criminal trial of the Trump Organization, spilling into public tax information that the former president has tried repeatedly to keep private.
The accountant, Donald Bender, a partner at Mazars USA, the firm that prepared tax returns for Trump and his company, testified Tuesday that Trump reported losses each year for 10 years from 2009 to 2018.
"There are losses for all these years," Bender said.
The disclosure at the Manhattan trial of Trump's family business came the same day the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the IRS is required to turn over six years' worth of Trump's tax information to the House Ways and Means Committee.
Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger questioned Bender about Trump's taxes during cross-examination as the trial nears an end. The Manhattan district attorney fought for nearly three years to obtain the records, including two appearances before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Hoffinger asked Bender about Trump's losses in 2009 and 2010, when the company lost nearly $1 billion.
"Do you recall in 2010 Donald Trump had losses of almost $200 million on his personal tax returns?" Hoffinger asked.
"I believe so," Bender said after examining the records.
"Do you recall in 2009, Donald Trump had, his personal tax returns had losses around $700 million?" Hoffinger followed.
"Sounds about right," Bender replied.
The staggering losses belie the reputation Trump has carefully tried to cultivate as a shrewd and successful businessman. That image helped carry him to the White House once, with Trump hoping it will again as he now embarks on a new run for president.
The numbers largely mirrored a report in The New York Times in September 2020 when they acquired select portions of Trump's tax returns.
Trump is not a defendant in the case and the line of questioning had no obvious connection to the tax scheme the Trump Organization is charged with carrying out over a 12-year period when former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg and other executives were allegedly paid off the books with perks like rent, car leases and private school tuition.
Weisselberg, who has pleaded guilty and testified pursuant to a plea agreement with prosecutors, has aided the defense by saying he hatched the scheme out of his own greed and Trump was unaware. He also testified that the scheme helped the Trump Organization reduce its payroll taxes, assisting the Manhattan District Attorney's Office prove there was a benefit to the company.
Bender was the first witness called by the defense, which has suggested it was his responsibility to alert the Trump Organization to any fraud but didn't in order to keep a lucrative client happy.
"Fair to say the Trump account represented roughly two-thirds of the revenue you brought into Mazars?" asked defense attorney Bob Brennan.
"Closer to 60 [percent]," Bender replied.
"But it was your largest account?" Brennan asked. "Yes sir," Bender said.
Prosecutors showed the jury a letter from Mazars that said the firm's work for the Trump Organization "does not include any procedures designed to detect errors, irregularities, or illegal acts, including fraud or defalcations, should any exist."
Bender appeared to help the prosecution when he testified that Weisselberg never told him the company was paying his rent and other personal expenses tax-free.
"At any time before the year 2021, did you actually know that The Trump Corporation and Donald Trump were paying these personal expenses as part of Allen Weisselberg's compensation and not reporting them to the tax authorities?" Hoffinger asked.
"No, ma'am," Bender answered.
"If you had known all of that at that time, what would you and Mazars have done?" Hoffinger asked.
"We would have had a serious conversation about continuing with the client," Bender responded.